Month: January 2016

Finding Atticus

By Callie Oettinger | 8 Comments

After Atticus pulled Calpurnia away from Aunt Alexandra and the Maycomb missionary circle ladies, Aunt Alexandra asked Miss Maudie when it would stop. (Chapter 24, To Kill A Mockingbird) “I can’t say I approve of everything he does Maudie, but he’s my brother, and I just want to know when this will ever end.” Her voice rose: “It tears him to pieces. He doesn’t show it much, but it tears him to pieces. I’ve seen him when — what else do they want from him, Maudie, what else?” “What does who want, Alexandra?” Miss Maudie asked. “I mean this town.…

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Choreographing a Fight Scene

By Steven Pressfield | 16 Comments

The first movie I ever got sole writing credit on was one of the worst pictures ever made. I’m not kidding. I won’t even tell you the title because if I do you’ll lose all respect for me. But … But I learned one enormous lesson on that movie. We were shooting a gunfight scene. The scene took place in a warehouse. It involved the hero and his girlfriend and about a dozen bad guys. Dudes were dropping from the rafters, plunging through skylights; cars were blowing up, the warehouse was going up in flames, not to mention gunfire was…

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The Iceman Cometh

By Shawn Coyne | 25 Comments

Many moons ago when I worked for “the man,” I’d reached a state of utter burn out. There was absolutely no water left in my creative well. I’d peered into the abyss and fallen in. Even mine own private Resistance had gone on vacation. Even he knew I was toast.

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Make Your Hero Suffer, Part Four

By Steven Pressfield | 12 Comments

We as writers have been admonished a thousand times that a character must have an arc. For sure, our hero has to have one. She must change through the story. The more she changes, the better. Yeah, that’s true. But change alone is not enough. That movement has to be (you’re ahead of me, I know) on-theme. The hero has to learn something through her suffering. But it’s more specific even than that. She has to advance and become more conscious not just in general or willy-nilly, but in line with what the story’s about. What is a character’s arc…

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Bradbury and Bowie: Dancing, So As Not To Be Dead

By Callie Oettinger | 12 Comments

In “Dancing, So As Not to Be Dead,” Ray Bradbury’s introduction to The Illustrated Man, he starts with a story about Laurent, a waiter in Paris, who spends his life between working and dancing. “I work from ten to twelve hours, sometimes fourteen,” he says, “and then at midnight I go dancing, dancing dancing until four or five in the morning and go to bed and sleep until ten and then up, up to work by eleven and another ten or twelve or sometimes fifteen hours of work.” When Bradbury asks how he can do that, Laurent replies: “Easily,” he…

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Make Your Hero Suffer, Part Three

By Steven Pressfield | 15 Comments

Continuing our exploration of the protagonist’s ordeal: Why, we might ask, does the hero have to suffer at all? Why can’t she just be happy? Wouldn’t that work just as well in a story? Answer: no. The hero has to suffer because: Suffering is part of the Hero’s Journey (as articulated by Joseph Campbell, C.G. Jung, and others) and virtually every story is a version of the Hero’s Journey. But more importantly … Suffering produces insight. Suffering leads to wisdom. Suffering forces the hero to change. Jack Nicholson changes in Chinatown, Julianne Moore changes in Far From Heaven, Alan Ladd…

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Connectin’ Like Hendley

By Callie Oettinger | 5 Comments

Luther and Bobby used to put small baggies of paint in the middle of Aiken Road. The cars flyin’ by would end up splattered, in need of a paint job. Lucky for them, the body shop Luther’s daddy worked at was just down the road. This was before Google and Angie’s List — when the Yellow Pages still doubled as booster seats for toddlers and people relied on word-of-mouth recommendations, and/or the closest locations, when choosing contractors, mechanics, restaurants and pretty much everything else. The two did a fine bit of referral work for Pop, who gave ‘em a cut to…

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Make Your Hero Suffer, Part Two

By Steven Pressfield | 12 Comments

We finished up last week with the idea that our protagonist’s suffering should not be arbitrary or capricious but on-theme. In other words, if Jay Gatsby suffers agonies of rejection by both Daisy and the social class she represents, that suffering is because Gatsby has bought-in so totally to that materialistic, acquisitional (and very American) fantasy himself. If he weren’t so fanatically pursuing the dream represented by the green light on the end of Daisy’s dock, he wouldn’t be suffering so much. And he wouldn’t ultimately be destroyed. The protagonist embodies the theme. (A case could be made, I know,…

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The Story Behind The “Random House Gives $5,000 Bonuses” Story

By Shawn Coyne | 37 Comments

[Happy New Year!  Here’s an oldie but goodie about how profitable a BIG BOOK SERIES can be and why resisting the impulse to sell yours to a big publisher after it’s a success makes sense…] For those of us who came of age in the analog universe, the phrase “follow the money” reminds us of a movie that inspired thousands of people to get graduate degrees in Journalism. It comes from William Goldman’s brilliant screenplay adaptation of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s seminal narrative nonfiction book All the President’s Men, which was published by the venerable Simon & Schuster in…

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